At The Optimist Daily, we understand that today’s current events can have a heavy strain on your mental health. Just like we are striving every day to lead a healthy, positive lifestyle, we want our readers to be able to do the same. Modern brain science has a lot to say about what helps protect us given the risk factors of today. With that in mind, here are 20 strategies to practice regularly to shield and sustain you.
Recognize you are not a robot or machine: We’re not meant to be on 24-7. You are not above the laws of science, which emphasize the importance of breaks and replenishment.
Practice mindfulness: Be fully present in each moment. Avoid rash judgment of emotions and sensations. Relish in the positive. Recognize negative situations will shift. Prioritize sleep: Sleep deprivation leads to poor moods, concentration, and health.
Avoid self-medication: Keep an eye out for hooks. If you crave or rely on alcohol, drugs, caffeine, or sweets to escape, numb, or raise your energy, it might be a clue you need new go-to’s to raise your dopamine and endorphins.
Eat clean: Processed foods disrupt our brains and bodies. Rather than fad diets, consider drawing from ancient Ayurvedic tradition, which emphasizes eating according to “dosha,” one’s body type. Eating local and in season is optimal for good health.
Step it up: We are wired to walk. The bilateral movement enhances our capacity to reason, and problem solve all while improving mood. If you are not able-bodied, leverage the types of movement and exercise available to you.
Use music as therapy: Neurologist Oliver Sacks asserts that music “can lift us out of depression when nothing else can.” His work reveals us as “musical species” who benefit immensely from its extraordinary healing power.
Unleash your creativity: Novelty and variety are highly beneficial for the brain. Creative outlets and activities are essential. Let your life be art.
Avoid social comparison: Use examples of success as motivation, not self-sabotage. Watch out for people that present a perfect picture of life—their neatly packaged story isn’t the full story. Practice self-compassion: Adopt a kind spirit towards yourself. Constant self-criticism is unhealthy and unproductive.
Guard against technostress: Constant screen use is associated with poor mental health outcomes (see today’s story on screen time). Spend time in nature: Numerous studies reveal the positive impact of nature on well-being.
Let them see you sweat: Hiding in the shadows exasperates mental health distress. Finding trusted people to reveal your struggles can be a catalyst for healing and growth.
Laugh and play: Humor is a protective factor for our mental health. Taking life too seriously inhibits joy. Play and be playful.
Volunteer: Research shows that people who give their time to contribute positively to the lives of others tend to flourish.
Count your blessings: Studies show that practicing gratitude positively boosts mental health.
Enlist a therapist or coach: Evidence-based treatment modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy and EMDR can help us develop a host of coping strategies and develop a strategic plan for thriving.
Adopt a sustainability mindset: Consider your long game. Set a pace that allows you to reach goals and still breathe, rather than being strangled by the too-tight grip of perpetual urgency and frenetic energy.
Align values to behavior: Take Dr. Martin Seligman’s Values in Action inventory to help discover your values and character strengths. Research shows that when we live out our values, it increases resilience.
Don’t go alone: Healing, growth, resilience, and well-being happen in a community. Any efforts towards them are enhanced when we have caring people to cheer us on and hold us accountable